MANHATTAN (CN) — The family affair that is President Donald Trump’s war on the press kicked into high gear Tuesday as an attorney for the first lady announced a “substantial settlement” with the blogger who already apologized for calling it “widely known that Melania was not a working model but rather a high-end escort.”
Maryland-based blogger Webster Tarpley lobbed the allegations in an Aug. 2 post to his website, Tarpley.net, but issued a retraction and apology on Aug. 22.
The retraction did not help Tarpley from getting sued, however, and Agence France-Presse quoted Trump’s attorney Tuesday as saying that the blogger has agreed to a substantial settlement.
Melania’s settlement with blogger Webster Tarpley comes a day after she found a new venue for her related claims against the Mail Online.
The British tabloid had reported on the sex-worker allegations against Melania back in August as well, in a story titled: “Naked photoshoots, and troubling questions about visas that won’t go away: The VERY racy past of Donald Trump’s Slovenian wife.”
No longer accessible on Mail Online’s website, the tabloid’s story discussed allegations from a Slovenian magazine that the New York modeling agency that Melania worked with “also operated as an escort agency for wealthy clients.”
During her husband’s presidential bid, the sex-worker allegations added a new dimension to questions about Melania’s immigration stemming from her modeling work in the United States.
Mail Online’s article had one more bombshell: quoting an unauthorized biography of Melania that says the former model met her real estate mogul husband three years before the date claimed by the couple.
Though Donald and Melania have publicly maintained that they met in 1998, the theory goes that this meeting was staged, and that the pair had met in 1995 when Donald was still married to his second wife, Marla Maples.
Online published a retraction on Sept. 1, 2016, apologizing that its report had been misinterpreted “as stating or suggesting that Mrs. Trump worked as an 'escort' or in the 'sex business,' that she had a 'composite or presentation card for the sex business,' or that either of the modeling agencies referenced in the article were engaged in these businesses.”
“The article ... did not intend to state or suggest that these allegations are true, nor did it intend to state or suggest that Mrs. Trump ever worked as an 'escort' or in the 'sex business,” the retraction says.
It also says: “The point of the article was that these allegations could impact the U.S. presidential election even if they are untrue.”
Melania sued Mail Online and blogger Tarpley that same day in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, Maryland.
After her case against Mail Online were tossed for lack of jurisdiction, Melania refiled her $150 million complaint against the website Monday in Manhattan Supreme Court.
Melania notes that the book the Mail cited for its article “was self-published by an unknown person who wrote under a pseudonym, and cannot even be located.”
The lawsuit barely separates Melania’s duties as first lady from her business interest.
In back-to-back paragraphs, the lawsuit states that Mail Online’s story “impugned [Melania Trump’s] fitness to perform her duties as first lady of the United States” and “impugned her fitness to perform her duties in business.”
“The defamatory statements in the article have caused plaintiff damages, including to her reputation and to her business interests and prospective economic opportunities, as well as causing significant humiliation in the community and emotional distress,” the complaint states.
Well before and after his election, Donald Trump has been dogged by questions about the minefield of interest conflicts posed by his hotel and real estate businesses around the world. Another New York lawsuit alleges that the president’s continued role in the Trump Organization violates the Constitution’s anti-corruption provisions found in the emoluments clause.
The First Lady has retained Beverly Hills, Calif.-based attorney Carles Harder, from the firm Harder Mirell & Abrams.
Mail Online’s spokesman did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.
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